Edinburgh Branch Event: Colinton Tunnel with Mike Scott and Chris Rutterford EDINBURGH BRANCH LUNCH ON 4 FEBRUARY 2023 : COLINTON TUNNELwith MIKE SCOTT and CHRIS RUTTERFORD Opened by the Caledonian Railway in 1874 primarily to serve mills along the Waterof Leith, the branch line from Slateford to Balerno soon attracted picknickers andother daytrippers drawn to its peaceful countryside. Worked by rolling-stock designedto cope with its tight curvature, it faced bus competition from the 1920s, andpassenger trains were suspended as a wartime economy in 1943, freight continuinguntil the last of the mills closed in 1967. On removal of the track it became the Water of Leith walkway, but walkers andcyclists had to face an unattractive transit through the damp and gloomy tunnel justnorth of the old station at Colinton. Then following the banking crisis local trade wentinto decline with the closure of bank branches and other premises, and thought beganto be given to how tourists might be lured back to spend their money in the village. Aswell as attracting visitors, turning the tunnel into a welcoming place might break thecycle of graffiti begetting more graffiti and improve community safety bydiscouraging antisocial elements from congregating there, making it into a placewhere people would want to stop and chat. Robert Louis Stevenson had family connections which had brought him often toColinton. As well as memorably capturing glimpses of passing scenes, his poem“From A Railway Carriage” from his Child's Garden of Verses (1885) reproducedbelow is much loved for its onomatopoeic rhythm imitating the sound of a steamtrain, so the idea was conceived of depicting the poem on the walls of the tunnelwhere it would become the “spine” of Scotland's longest mural. Fundraising during 2016-8 proceeded in parallel with design for which help wasreceived from the Robert Louis Stevenson Society, and the commissioning group ledby Mike Scott selected as lead muralist Chris Rutterford who brought in artistsDuncan Peace, Craig Robertson and Lubi Lykan as his subcontractors. The CityCouncil's contribution was to renew the lighting and mostly not to obstruct progress,and doubts faded as people began to see progress. With text on one wall andaccompanying illustrations stretching across the tunnel roof and down the other wall,the task now was to engage with the local community. Over 600 people from Colinton, Bonaly and Juniper Green Primary School andFirrhill High helped create elements which they painted on boards for attachment tothe wall. Families from the local Army community at Redford and Dreghorn Barracksmade a key contribution reflecting the area's military heritage, as did members of thePentlands Arts Club. With 2000 square metres of surface area along the tunnel's 140-metre length requiringto be scraped, wirebrushed and undercoated, local organisations whose volunteershelped with preparations included Tiphereth's mighty Peregrines, the ScottishAssociation for Mental Health's Redhall Walled Garden, the Water of LeithConservation Trust, Boroughmuir Rugby Club and Sustrans, who also gave generousfinancial support. Community payback teams helped varnish the boards, acquiring asense of involvement, and as well as producing a three-dimensional effect this methodproved more durable than painting directly onto brickwork. The Balerno Pug engine can be seen pulling its train out of the tunnel towardsSlateford, and nearly opposite at his table in a carriage is RLS himself. Localcharacters worked into the design included grumpy stationmaster John Kerr, thoughChris drew the line at admitting disgraced banker Fred Goodwin, and Mike's wifeappeared as a witch. Remembrance had to be treated with appropriate poignancy. Arainbow that vaults the tunnel became multipurpose because of its associations withthe NHS and with Pride. The project could not have been carried out without the generosity of local people,whose contributions made up a third of funding. Grants from Sustrans ArtRoots Fund,the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, The Turtleton Trust, the National LotteryCommunity Fund, Crudens, the Currie Balerno & District Round Table, TheMushroom Trust, Currie & Balerno News, Virgin Money Foundation, City ofEdinburgh Council, Co-op Local Community Fund and the Educational Institute ofScotland all ensured completion. A measure of the Tunnel's impact is that a recent count found 2200 people passingthrough in an hour. Ultimately the fate of such a project depends on the regard inwhich it is held in the local community, so they must be always in the lead.Continuing scope exists for adding to the design, and there is an ongoing task ofguarding against damage by vandalism or the weather, so an income stream to keepthe mural sustainable is provided by the sale of merchandise - cards, towels, colouringbooks, with still to come a jigsaw and maybe consultancy services to other similarprojects. Recognition so far includes an Award for Community Engagement from theAssociation for Heritage Interpretation, and Colinton's fame has reached its Australiannamesake which also has a tunnel in need of repurposing. FROM A RAILWAY CARRIAGE by RLSFaster than fairies, faster than witches,Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;And charging along like troops in a battle,All through the meadows the horses and cattle:All of the sights of the hill and the plainFly as thick as driving rain;And ever again, in the wink of an eye,Painted stations whistle by.Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,All by himself and gathering brambles;Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;And there is the green for stringing the daisies!Here is a cart run away in the roadLumping along with man and load;And here is a mill and there is a river:Each a glimpse and gone for ever!